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3A High School Baseball Preview

The Steve Sanders Spartanburg County Tournament as well as the Steve Coley Memorial Tournament at Landrum are just under 3 weeks away. So, it seems like a fantastic time to continue previewing all of our local teams/regions. This week’s focus will be on our two 3A regions. 


Last year, all of our 3A teams were all in 1 insanely competitive region – III-3A. After realignment, we now have region 3-3A, which consists locally of just Chapman and Broome lumped in with Blue Ridge, Travelers Rest, and Carolina Academy, and region 4-3A, which has Woodruff and Union County pitted with Clinton, Chester, and Emerald. 


Let’s start off with region 3. 




2022 result: Swept by Oceanside Collegiate Academy in 2 games in 3A state championship series. 


Graduated: Pitcher Ricky Montalvo, Shortstop Drew Settle, 1st baseman Walt Waddell, Left Fielder Landon Solesbee, Jonah Rollins, and Ethan Fortenberry. 


Returning Starters: 9


Expected Pitching Rotation

-Senior Jacob Cogdell, who stepped up a lot and pitched behind Ricky Montalvo last season, will be the team’s ace according to Coach Steven Fusaro. 


“He has the potential to have a huge year for us. He is better than he ever has been in the weight room and on the mound. We expect him to lead us this year.” 


-Senior Jack Settle will be tabbed to fill the number 2 spot. 


“Jack pitched big games for us all last season. He was our #3 guy, but will be bumped up in the rotation. He has matured physically over the last year and has looked very good in the open period. We expect Jack to take another step forward for us this year.” 


-Junior lefty Wesley Shipman, who is new to Chapman this season, will make up the 3rd slot. 


In 2022, Chapman came just 2 games shy of checking off one of the goals set for the program by Steve Fusaro since he became the Head Coach at Chapman – winning the state championship. Although they did not win the region, the Panthers got hot at the right time and managed to win the Upperstate Championship with just one loss through the district and upperstate rounds combined.. 


Despite 7 graduates, they return 9 players, most of which got several starts a year ago – valuable experience that cannot be understated, according to Steven Fusaro. 


“We have a great group of returners with tons of experience. They have made deep playoff runs as sophomores and juniors. We also have a great mix of newcomers who are extremely talented players that we expect will fit right in at the varsity level. Our program also expects to compete for Championships. These guys have worked their tails off since the last pitch of the State Championship to put themselves in a position to have another great year.” 


Out of his 9 returners, Fusaro says that one player he is particularly excited about is Senior middle infielder Jarren Metcalf, while Junior Kole Brown, who got his first 3 varsity starts in the playoffs last year, is poised to have a breakout season. 


Jarren will move to shortstop for us, where he has played the majority of the time in his life. He has been an all region Second Baseman for the past two years, but he has looked exceptional at SS. I also expect him to have another big year offensively. We can’t believe he hasn’t committed yet, but {when he does,} a college is going to get one heck of a ball player and one heck of a young man. Kole started 3 games in the playoffs for us last year after playing JV most of the year. In the Upper State Championship, he recorded his first varsity hit, and in the State Championship Series, he had 2 hits. Kole has worked to become more consistent at the plate. He has a unique blend of power, speed, and athleticism. He has also been our most improved during the summer and fall open season.” 


Fusaro has never been one for focusing on rankings or expectations, which are pretty high for the Panthers this preseason, being ranked #1 as the favorite to win it all in 3A. Asked how the team has been motivated by falling  just 2 games short of a title last year, and what they have been doing to build on it, Fusaro had this to say. 


“Every year we talk about how many games away we were from winning it all. Some years we’ve been 10 away and others 4 games. This year, 2 games has been our mantra. As coaches, we evaluated our program and looked for ways to get better. We asked the boys to continue much of what they’ve done to improve, but we also asked them to commit more to the weight room and each other. We are as strong as we’ve ever been, and if we can be more connected than we have ever been, we have a chance to have a special season.”


“We don’t worry about expectations, pressure, the other teams, etc. We focus on the things that we have direct control over. That is ourselves. We believe in “Playing the Standar.”. We have a series of standards we have direct control over and we hold ourselves to them on the field, the weight room, the classroom, and in the community. If we live up to the standard that we have set for ourselves, the wins and losses will take care of themselves. We have big goals, but we know that those goals are only achieved by us being great at everything that we have control over. We don’t play the rankings, the scoreboard, the opponent, the umpires, or the crowd. Instead, we play the standard”, Fusaro added. 


Regarding his thoughts about the new region and the 3A classification as a whole: 


“This region is going to be extremely tough at the top. Broome has played us exceptionally tough over the years, and Coach Waddle is someone I look up to. He is a Hall of Fame coach in our state. His teams will always be prepared and play the game the right way. Travelers Rest is always scrappy and highly competitive. They won their region last year in 4A. Coach McKitrick is a great coach and someone that we have scrimmaged the past few seasons because they push our guys to be their best. Blue Ridge has an exceptional team. We have had some really competitive games with them the past few seasons and I don’t expect it to be any different. They have a ton of guys who can play the game at a high level and they are led by another Hall of Fame baseball coach in Travis Henson. His teams are always well-coached and highly competitive. This region will be tough and I expect multiple teams from it to make noise in the playoffs.” 


“3A is unbelievably competitive. Just in our region, we have some teams that can make deep playoff runs. As you scan the upstate, there are teams throughout that have great baseball programs. Every region has multiple teams that can make it to the State Championship this year. Obviously, we have a ton of respect for Clinton, Powdersville, and Seneca, all of which made it to the Upper State round last year. All three of those teams will have great years again. On top of that, you have multiple programs that are well-respected around our state. 3A baseball is alive and well. We know that we’re just one of many talented teams in this state.”




2022 results: 18-8 record, 6-3 region III-3A (


Graduated: 9. Dalton Crawford (Catcher, now at Columbia International University), Pitcher/Infielder Jeb Dawson, Pitcher/Infielder Tristen Horne, Cameron Moore (Pitcher/Infielder/Outfielder), Third Baseman Morgan Robson, Infielder Dylan Ramirez (now starting Quarterback at North Greenville University), Pitcher Adam Stacy, Outfielder Braxton Turner, and Catcher Landon Wylie. 


Of note- South Carolina commit Junior Pitcher/Outfielder Brady Jones, who was such a big contributor for the Centurions last year, has transferred to P27 Academy in Columbia. 


Returners: 8. 


Expected Pitching Rotation: Not fully set in stone. According to Coach Ben Waddle, everyone will have a chance to contribute. But he did name 2 players that will for sure see time on the hill this season since they have the most experience of all his arms. Seniors Hunter Jolly (0-1, 16 IP, 25 K, 4.81 ERA in 2022) and William O’Shields (2-1, 15.1 IP, 11 K, 4.10 ERA last year). 


Broome started off the season blazing hot in 2022 before running into a bit of a wall in region play. They had plenty of speed, were strong at the plate, and had a lot of talent and experience last year. After losing 10 guys, it would be easy to write the Centurions off. But, in the ever-eloquent words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.” 


Despite the losses, there are still plenty of upperclassmen, some of whom have been with the team for 4 or more years. Ben Waddle believes that the experience and depth they have plus the success from last season will help them be just as strong if not stronger this year.


Of his returning guys, Waddle says that Hunter Jolly, Will O’Shields, and Nathaniel Carpenter (Junior Catcher/Infielder/Pitcher) are who he is most excited to see this season, as all 3 are poised to not only emerge as the team leaders, but also have potential to have great seasons. 


As far as his thoughts on the region and how his team stacks up against it, Coach Waddle believes that Chapman as the defending 3A state runners-up with so much returning will be one of the 2 teams duking it out for the region title, with the other being Travis Henson’s Blue Ridge Tigers, who have 2 pitchers that are among the top prospects. He also listed a couple of players from the region to watch out for. 


“Both teams play hard and are well-coached and both have guys coming back with experience making a deep playoff run. You also can’t count out Travelers Rest, who won their region in 2022. Carolina’s program has also been much-improved over the last 4 years. Watch out for Jacob Cogdell (pitcher, Chapman), Johann Rodriguez (Catcher/DH, Chapman), Jarren Metcalf (Infielder, Chapman), and Brandt Miller (sophomore Lefty pitcher/outfielder from Blue Ridge).” 


Aside from Blue Ridge and Chapman, Waddle says that the biggest competition come playoff time might be the Brookland-Cayce Bearcats, who are loaded with talent, and the Powdersville Patriots, who made a run to the upperstate championship last year, where they fell to Chapman. 


Region 4-3A




The Wolverines are under new leadership in 2023, as former Spartanburg HS head coach Wesley Brown stepped down to take the job at the end of the Vikings’ 2022 season. 


They have had a rough couple of seasons, and this change may be just what they need to get things moving back in the right direction for the program. 


Returners: 6


Returners from last year are Seniors Nemo Cochran, Carson Tucker, Logan McAbee, and Bryan Waddell, as well as Juniors Walt Caldwell, and Colin McAbee. These guys and the rest of the team are very hard workers. They get after it daily. They are a group that has been very eager to learn and have started to come together as a collective group. These kids are hungry and that can be a very dangerous thing if used properly. I believe at some point this year, things may kick in and people will see a huge improvement within our program”, said Brown.


Expected Rotation: No rotation set yet. But Coach Brown mentioned a couple of names we could see. 


At the moment we haven’t set the rotation due to not seeing our guys in game action yet. Logan McAbee is one coming off ACL Surgery that we hope to get back at the end of this month. He will get a lot of innings for us. Ashton Mock has a bulldog mentality that should help him compete on the mound. Colin McAbee has an explosive arm that should be on the back end of the game. I am very curious to see Carson Tucker, as this will be his first year pitching. His arm is electric. Hopefully, he can transition that to the mound. This is the most pitching depth from top to bottom that I have ever had in my coaching career. A lot of young talent.” 


Brown says that it’s difficult going into his first year to pick just 1 player that he is most excited about, but listed some more guys and their potential. 


“Nemo Cochran is poised to have a big year. He is athletic and has some dog in him with whatever he does. Colin McAbee is a very strong catcher with some juice in his bat and a chance to be the shutdown dog at the end of the game on the mound. Carson Tucker has showcased well in BP and like I said above, I am very curious to see him toe the rubber. Whit Harrison has made a move from 3rd Base to 1st base, which seems to be a perfect fit for him. Connor Kelley has moved from shortstop to third, which seems to have made him relax. He is a middle of the order type hitter that could have a big year at the plate. Walt Caldwell is a speedster who can track it {the ball} down in the outfield and is very scrappy at the plate. We have a freshman shortstop who is a dog in the infield. He has a high motor and a high baseball IQ. Ashton Mock is a dog on the mound and a very scrappy all-around player. So, as you can tell there are many that I am excited to see.” 


Regarding Region 4-3A: 


“I believe it’s hard to go against Clinton as the favorite. But, Coach Keels at Union has a very good hitting team and will be coached extremely well. Emerald will be improved from last year with a very good pitcher. I believe our team has a shot to make the playoffs. It will come down to how they gel as a team and continually get better as the season moves along”

Brown closed with these thoughts on the 3A classification as a whole and whether or not his team could be the one to raise a few eyebrows this season: 

It’s been a while since I last competed in the 3A level of baseball. So, I am still investigating programs and what they bring. Obviously, Chapman is the favorite. What Coach Fusaro has done at Chapman is build a self-sustaining culture that just continues to reload each year. Powdersville has been a mainstay the last few years as well. I am very curious to see if we are the surprise team based on the recent years records here that were as a very young program.”

Union County



2022 Results: 14-9 overall, eliminated in district round by Chester. 

Returning starters: 6. 

Seniors Bryant Whitlock (pitcher/shortstop/catcher), Nick Queen (outfielder), and Peyton Cannon (outfielder) as well as Juniors Tanner Hardin (shortstop/pitcher), Mason Small, and BJ Jeter (1st baseman, outfielder). Overall, they have 7 juniors and 7 seniors on the varsity squad this season. 

Expected Pitching Rotation: Bryant Whitlock, Tanner Hardin, Mason Small (the team’s top reliever in 2022). Could also see MJ Porter, Cade Goings, and Nick Queen get time on the hill. 

Billy Keels had a nice turnaround in his first season leading the Union County baseball program. The Jackets, despite being swept in the Steve Sanders Tournament, went on a tear to start the regular season, defeating Chester, sweeping their first region series with Woodruff, and splitting their 2nd with Broome. They spent their spring break week playing in a tournament at the Cal Ripken experience in Myrtle Beach, where they went 4-1 against several teams from Kentucky. They ran into some tough luck when they hit the meat of their region schedule, splitting with Emerald, and being swept by Clinton and Chapman. In the playoffs, they dropped back to back games to Powdersville and Chester in the district round to end the season. 

This year, they return a wealth of experience that Coach Keels says he believes will be the strength of the team. He is particularly excited about the potential of Bryant Whitlock and Tanner Hardin, who both pitch and play shortstop with Whitlock also able to do some catching when needed. Whitlock has 3 college offers on the board right now, while Hardin committed to play for Todd Interdonato at Wofford (which also happens to be Billy Keels’ alma mater) back in the Fall. 

The Yellow Jackets, despite the region realignment, still have nearby rivals Chester and Clinton to deal with as well as Emerald and Woodruff (who has some talent and now being under the leadership of Wes Brown, may be a team to watch out for). But, Coach Keels iterated that the biggest threat in the region is the only one ranked in the preseason top 10 – the Clinton Red Devils, who are 10th in 3A. 

Keels ultimately believes that his team is capable of surprising some folks come time for the playoffs, and although Chapman is favored in the 3A classification, don’t sleep on Brookland-Cayce and Gilbert. They are poised to make some noise. He added that Seneca may also still be a threat with senior ace and Clemson commit Jacob McGovern returning this season. 

That is all for 3A. Next week, I’ll preview our lone 4A team – the Greer Yellow Jackets.

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